The $1.3 trillion omnibus bill approved by the US Congress and signed off by President Donald Trump last month includes conditions on the funding available to Sri Lanka for the rest of the financial year 2018, including establishing a justice mechanism, addressing the plight of the disappeared, de-militarisation of the North-East and addressing the impunity of Sri Lankan peacekeepers involved in sexual abuse.
A total of $35mn have been made available to Sri Lanka’s democracy programmes, particularly in the regions riven by ethnic and religious conflict. The funds will be made available “for programs to assist in the identification and resolution of cases of missing persons”.
The bill stipulates that in order for Sri Lanka to receive the funds appropriated, the US Secretary of State should certify and report to the Committees on Appropriations that Sri Lanka supports a credible justice mechanism as per the Human Rights Council resolution 30/1, investigates allegations of torture and returns land occupied by the military. The act further requires the establishment of the Office of Missing Persons, the publication of a list of those who surrendered at the end of the armed conflict and reducing the presence of the military in the North-East, while restructuring and downsizing the armed forces.
Assistance for the security forces is limited to $500,000 and restricted to humanitarian and disaster response training and maritime security. Any peacekeeping funds “may only be made available for training and equipment related to international peacekeeping operations, and only if the Government of Sri Lanka is taking effective steps to bring to justice Sri Lankan peacekeeping troops who have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse.”
An explanatory note of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill outlines further funding for Sri Lanka as one of the recipients of $8mn for forensic anthropology assistance related to the exhumation and identification of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, alongside Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq and Syria.
The act also provides funding for Sri Lanka as part of a $25mn package for supporting religious freedom programmes for efforts to assist in addressing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, alongside Iraq, Syria and Burma.